Equal Opportunity: “Bridging the gap by building bridges”

by Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton)
(U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton)

6/4/2013 – SOUTHWEST ASIA — Air Force Equal Opportunity strives to accomplish its mission by promoting an environment free from personal, social or institutional barriers that could prevent Air Force members from rising to their highest potential.

“Our greatest strength is our diversity,” said Master Sgt. Carlos Barter, the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Equal Opportunity director deployed here from F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. “[The wing commander] constantly emphasizes that people should be treated with dignity and respect. These words I echo in just about every brief I give.”

Barter has had his hands in the equal opportunity world for most of his life. Growing up in Panama City, Panama, he moved to the U.S. in search of a better life, and in 1995, at 22 years old, he joined the Air Force.

“That was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” he said. “And after nearly 18 years of service, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Barter began this “life-changing experience” as a logistics troop. He said while his initial career field was fun, he always felt a calling to do something more, to help people.

“One day the Air Force called me giving me the option to retrain and I jumped at the chance to better help people on a personal level,” he said. “I absolutely love working with people.”

Barter said cross-training to equal opportunity has given him the chance to really see just how diverse the Air Force is.

The Air Force broadly defines diversity as a composite of individual characteristics, experiences and abilities consistent with the Air Force Core Values and the Air Force Mission. Air Force diversity includes, but is not limited to: personal life experiences, geographic background, socioeconomic background, cultural knowledge, educational background, work background, language abilities, physical abilities, philosophical/spiritual perspectives, age, race, ethnicity and gender.

“The greatest strength of our Air Force is our Airmen,” said Gen. Mark A. Welsh, Air Force Chief of Staff, according to the Air Force Diversity public website. “The greatest strength of our Airmen is their diversity. Each of them comes from a different background, a different family experience and a different social experience. Each brings a different set of skills and a unique perspective to the team. We don’t just celebrate diversity … we embrace it!”

But these strengths and this diversity don’t just happen. Barter said maintaining a professional environment is key to mission success.

“We need to sustain an atmosphere where people can feel comfortable approaching leadership when they feel they’ve been treated unprofessionally,” said Barter. “If someone’s not 100 percent focused on their job, their mission — the effectiveness of our overall mission would significantly diminish.”

As a result of this mission impact, the Air Force enforces a ZERO tolerance policy for all equal opportunity concerns.

“What I bring to the team is unique in that I help others find resolution in their concerns,” Barter said. “I like to be out talking to this wing’s Airmen, getting to know their issues and providing assistance where I can. If the issue isn’t something I can assist with, I will find the appropriate agency to take care of that individual.”

Barter said his job allows him to gain insight into a unit’s climate, thus providing the commander insight he may not have had before.

“Equal opportunity supports the mission by breaking down barriers,” he said. “We bridge the gap by building bridges.”

For more information or to attain equal opportunity assistance, call 437-2512.

Published by Benjamin W. Stratton

I'm a photojournalist traveling the world sharing what I experience along the way.

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